Title: Too Cool for the Unicorns
Tagline: Friends with the enemy…
Summary: As I’m sure you know, I’m the only eighth-grade member of the Unicorn Club—and the most mature. But hey, being in a club with a bunch of seventh graders isn’t so bad when they’re the coolest girls in school.
At least, that’s what I used to think… until the Eight Times Eights, a club made up of (you guessed it) eight eighth graders, invited me to join. I know you’re wondering why I’d even consider going to a club the Unicorns have always hated. But the Eights are in eighth grade like me—which means that I’ll have ready-made friends when I go on to Sweet Valley High next year. Besides, it turns out that the Eights are way cooler than any of us ever thought—and much more sophisticated than the Unicorns.
Sure, the Unicorns have been my best friends forever, but I have my future to think about…
For books and books we’ve wanted Kimberly to fuck off into the sea, but since I have a feeling the Unicorns will talk her into coming back to their club, this is not at all what I meant. Stay gone, Kimberly. Stay fucked off.
[Dove: Wouldn’t it be lovely if Kimberly left the club forever? That said, I’d be furious about it, because her return torpedoed the interesting thing this series had – diverse (contextually, anyway) personalities – so if she’d come back, destroyed what we liked and left again, that would have pissed me off. But back to what we have: I don’t like Kimberly, so I really don’t want to spend a book stuck in her head.]
[Raven: I for one do NOT want Kimberly to fuck off into the sea. I want her to fuck off into space instead. Fucking off into the sea suggests you can return after a decent towelling, but fucking off into space sounds a lot more final. So yeah, Kimberly. Make like Gagarin.]
Kimberly is in a bad mood and is annoyed by the Unicorns. They’re hanging out in the Wakefield living room while Jessica makes prank phone calls and the others are super entertained. Kimberly says that purple is their color because it’s the color of royalty, and when she thinks of royalty, she thinks of fancy balls, beautiful dresses, and elegance, not immaturity and prank phone calls.
When Kimberly flat out calls them immature, the others bicker with her over it except for Ellen who has been extra sensitive lately because her parents just got a divorce. Even with that excuse, she annoys Kimberly, who thinks she acts and looks like a baby, especially with her hairstyle that hasn’t changed since the second grade.
That seems unlikely (and would have reflected poorly on the Unicorns last year, Janet we wish you well), but okay.
[Dove: Also, she’s pissed off that Mandy is “always” chewing gum. Which is another brand new tradition we’ve always had.] [Raven: I guess MAndy doesn’t have a toxic trait upon which the Ghostie can latch? Although if Kimberly had gone “Same old Mandy, always harping on about her fucking cancer” I’d have laughed up a lung.]
Elizabeth rushes in with news that Johnny Buck is playing at the Sweet Valley Amphitheater in two weeks. How in the world did she get that bit of information before Jessica? [Dove: How in the world did Sweet Valley get an amphitheater?]
I will say that Kimberly asks the same question I thought next, which is why they haven’t heard about it at all if the concert is in two weeks. Elizabeth’s explanation: he was booked to be in Vegas but the arena has an electrical problem that will close them for awhile, there was no other place in Vegas that could host him (completely unbelievable), and so he decided to cancel that performance and give one in Sweet Valley instead. [Dove: *blinks* You’re telling me that there was literally no available venues in Vegas? Not even at the Las Pegasus venue?] [Raven: “I wouldn’t worry about it, it’s not a big party town.”]
The Unicorns decide to camp out in front of Great State Music so they can get good tickets first thing Saturday morning. Oh, those days when you had to actually buy tickets in person and you had to be there incredibly early to get good tickets and then early if you were in general admission in order to get close to the stage.
Kimberly is determined that they will all be there for it. As they toss around ways to keep themselves awake and entertained, Kimberly continues to think them immature (Ellen suggests word searches, which is babyish, though I think they’re fun, and when Mandy suggests they make I Love Johnny Buck t-shirts and wear them to get tickets and to the concert) and gross (when Mandy’s gum falls out of her mouth and she picks it up off her jeans and chews it again).
(Lila is aghast at the t-shirt idea but only because Mandy suggested they wear them two times. Lila never has to wear the same thing twice.) [Raven: That’d make things difficult with the Unicorn Jackets.]
Kimberly doesn’t think the Unicorn Club has been the same since she came back from Atlanta and found Elizabeth and her friends in the Unicorns, even though Kimberly stopped that right away. She misses Janet and the other Unicorns who moved on to high school and is sad that they’ve made new friends there. [Dove: Just pointing out that for all her angst, Grace and Belinda were a year younger than her, it’s the ghostie’s mistake in book 1 that moved them on. Also she reflects on how Ellen came to be president. She says she was there for Mandy’s election (she wasn’t) and she wasn’t there for Ellen’s (she was). We’re off to a fine fucking start here, aren’t we?]
The Eight Times Eight Club is sad because their president, Amanda Harmon, is moving away. Kimberly hasn’t told the Unicorns this gossip because the two clubs are archenemies, which explains why we’ve seen so much of the Eights over the past few books. That rivalry is really something.
Kimberly kind of likes the way the Eights all dress alike and act alike; they’re like a sorority or something, and she wishes the Unicorns were more like that.
Pretty reductive view of sororities there, Kimberly.
The Eights invite Kimberly to their “office” at school, which is one of the bathrooms that no one ever uses. (a) I call shenanigans. It’s right by the actual school office, people would use it all the time. (b) Kimberly is incredibly impressed by this. Why? WHY? [Raven: Isn’t this a common high school / crappy job trope? The hidden “office” in an unused stall? I think I’ve seen it a fair few times before.]
They, of course, brought her there to invite her to leave the Unicorns and join the Eights.
If this is going to be a way for the Eights to torment the Unicorns and they don’t actually want Kimberly and Kimberly is going to learn a big lesson about friendship and loyalty that she will immediately forget, I am going to set something on fire.
Kimberly turns them down at first, but then when they run into each other while shopping, the Eights greet Kimberly only and tell her the offer still stands. The Unicorns, of course, jump on this, but Kimberly tells them it’s about a study group for a big history test.
Julia of the Eights calls Kimberly later to ask about a history assignment and tell her that they have front-row tickets to the Johnny Buck concert. She invites Kimberly to join them since Amanda won’t be able to use her ticket. Kimberly actually does hesitate over this offer but agrees to go when Julia asks her to hang out with them at the concert, decide whether she wants to join, and if she does, they’ll throw a big part later and make it official, but if she decides to stay with the Unicorns, there will be no hard feelings.
Kimberly can’t decide which Unicorn she should tell about her concert decision. Ellen, Lila, and Jessica are too easily offended. Finally she decides Mandy is the one because she always tries to see the best in people and she dropped out of the Unicorns for awhile right after Kimberly came back from Atlanta. Kimberly thinks it’s because they were all too immature and thinks that’s funny because Mandy is immature, too. [Dove: She also says that she doesn’t know for sure why because she wasn’t there at the time. When the actual truth of the matter is that Mandy walked out after Kimberly returned because Kimberly and Jessica stole Mary’s hard work and passed it off as their own. So either this ghostie has no fucking clue what went on, or Kimberly’s still in denial about her own awful behaviour. Probably both.]
Kimberly can’t actually bring herself to tell Mandy when the time comes, though.
At lunch, when the other girls talk about their plans to get tickets, which now include literally camping out right in front of the door (oh, those days, the nostalgia), Kimberly finally tells them that the Eights invited her to sit with them in their front-row seats.
At first the rest of the Unicorns think it is a joke but then get angry at her because none of them would take tickets from the Eights. She also ends up admitting that they asked her to join them.
This all leads to a fight, Kimberly calls them immature and embarrassing and storms away from the table.
She joins the Eights at their table and feels like a “pig” for eating pizza while they’re eating salads. Oh boy. [Raven: Yeah, that’s a big side-eye sigh from me too.]
When the Unicorns walk past, the Eights mock them a little, talking about how their reign is nearly over. They’ve gone from 10 last year to 4 now. Five, Kimberly thinks, counting herself, but she isn’t brave enough to say it aloud.
She is starting to wonder if the Unicorns have been replaced by the Eights in school popularity.
Saturday morning, it pours rain, and Kimberly feels sorry for the Unicorns.
Of course, she feels sorry for herself, too, because she’s gone shopping and she hates to shop alone. Not too long into it, she runs into Tamara Chase (FUCK YOU TAMARA CHASE) (do I remember why we shout this? Nope!) [Raven: Hah! I too shouted it as soon as her name appeared.], who was a Unicorn last year. Kimberly is thrilled to see her and asks about Grace and Janet, but they almost never see each other. Their classes are all different, their clubs and activities, and they just don’t make time to get together.
Kimberly is aghast. She’d assumed this entire time that the former Unicorns must have formed a Unicorn Club Senior or something (ahahahahahahahaha, that makes them sound old. Janet would never allow that) and can’t believe their friendships have broken apart.
She runs into the Eights as she’s leaving the mall and they arrive. They’re not dressed identically for once, but when Kimberly shows them her new tennis shoes, it turns out that it’s the same brand, style, and color that the Eights wear. The Eights tell her she’s destined to join them. Kimberly isn’t so sure, but she does agree to hang out with them for awhile.
They go to Fun City (…really), a high school hangout with billiard tables, Ping-Pong, and pinball. I love it already. The Eights teach her how to play Eight Ball (of course), though she’s not very good at it. Cute high school boys talk to them, one of them is dating Erica and calls her “wench” and Kimberly has to admit she’s having a lot of fun and that the Eights are a lot cooler than she ever imagined.
YES. STAY WITH THEM. Let the Unicorn Club return to its glory earlier in this series before it split into two clubs. [Dove: THIS! This would have been brilliant, if Kimberly had turned up, torn the club to shreds and, at the end of Unicorns at War, realised that the Unicorns weren’t her cup of tea any more, so joined the Eights, and then there was a proper rivalry, rather than the tedium we’ve had to endure – particularly with regard to beige-paint-but-now-chews-gum Mandy.] [Raven: Dove, I think you need to let the “Mandy beige paint” thing go. It’s time to move on.]
The Unicorns managed fifth-row seats to the concert and Jessica claims that’s better than first row because you get a better view. Hard disagree. [Raven: I’d agree if it were the cinema, but at love entertainment? Nah. Actually, one caveat: live wrestling. If you’re front row and level with the ring, it’s a much crappier view than if you’re a few rows back with an elevated angle. But of course, a front row seat means you might get some proper interaction with the wrestlers.]
Kimberly spends some time considering both clubs, about how she didn’t really have an opinion on the Eights, she just went along with what the Unicorns thought (which is complete bullshit, she came back and fought against everything the Unicorns had become this school year).
Nydick, who I thought only taught sixth grade classes, but okay, is giving them a huge test on the Friday before the concert. I’m sure this won’t come into play at all.
Kimberly is back at Fun City (that name) with the Eights again when Kimberly finds out that they’re all invited to Bruce Patman’s pre-concert party on Saturday. (Fuck you, Bruce.) The Eights aren’t sure they want to go to an eight-grade party, and Kimberly learns that they’re invited to high school parties all the time.
The high school boys show up again and demand the Eights come over and “improve the scenery.” God, straight boys are gross. Kimberly is both excited and nervous to hang out with high school boys.
One of the guys, Greg, calls Kimberly his good luck charm and goes on to immediately win the game he’s playing. She finds this cute, but isn’t so pleased when the boys keep playing the game and the girls are left to watch. [Raven: I found this aspect rather distasteful. The whole “wench” and not interacting with the girls thing was there to show that the Eights were somehow worse than the Unicorns for tolerating such shoddy behaviour, but none of it was resolved and none of the boys were confronted for this toxicity. It’s like it was set up to be a teaching moment for all involved, but the plot funding was cut half way through.]
The Eights walk Kimberly home and meet her dad; earlier, Lila was chill when her dad messed up a magic trick in front of her, but the Eights act bored and then completely aghast when her dad messes up the trick and gets milk all over them. Kimberly doesn’t know how she’ll possibly be able to show her face at school ever again.
Kimberly decides to apologise to the Eights first thing, but before she can get to their bathroom office, she runs into the Unicorns. They argue over how Kimberly is acting and are annoyed when Kimberly says she will not be volunteering at the daycare center that afternoon because she hopes she’ll be invited back to Fun City with the Eights.
Mandy asks if she’s quitting the Unicorns, and Kimberly doesn’t answer that and runs off to see if her dad’s magic trick cost her the Eights.
The Eights are totally chill with her, though, and say it would be shallow to judge her by the things her family does.
Kimberly’s not sure if she’s actually becoming one of them, though it starts to feel like it, and doesn’t know where that leaves the Unicorns.
BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU. [Raven: Hard agree.]
The Eights decide to go to Bruce’s party before the concert (at least in part because none of them can go to the high school parties after) and wonder if they should make a public announcement there that Kimberly is joining the Eights.
Kimberly herself isn’t sure if she’s ready to make a public announcement. After all, she hasn’t really quit the Unicorns yet.
Instead, the Eights decide to throw her their own party to make the announcement. They’re not sure if they can throw one together before the next week, and Kimberly thinks that the Unicorns could, they could throw one together in a single day.
Kimberly keeps thinking about the fun she’s had with the Unicorns this year [Dove: Including the time they were stranded on an island together… which Kimberly was not there for, because the boat left before she could board. *rolls eyes* FFS.], but then the Eights talk to her about how she could prepare a speech since she has a shot at being their president. This thrills her because she has no chance to be Unicorn president; Ellen will be president all year and Kimberly will be at the high school the next year.
The Eights study for their history test together while they play Eight Ball but then the high school boys show up and flirt, and the Eights go watch them play. When Kimberly asks, the Eights aren’t at all bothered by the fact they can only watch and never get the chance to play.
Kimberly thinks that Mandy would be annoyed by all this because she never jokes about things like equality between the sexes.
The Eights decide to get dinner, but are shocked when Kimberly suggests Casey’s because they might get fat eating there. The horror. They are surprised to learn that Kimberly isn’t on a diet.
They go to eat at The Salad Bowl (good lord these names) [Raven: Also, there was no mention of this eatery when we learned all about the mall’s food court, during which time Jessica had to dress as a hot dog.], and on the way, Kimberly sees the Unicorns at Casey’s having fun and eating ice cream. Only kids eat ice cream, though, she tells herself.
Excuse me, I need to go eat some ice cream now.
Kimberly wakes up in the middle of the night to her mom calling the ambulance because her dad is having chest pain and struggling to breathe. The paramedics arrive and rush him to the hospital; Kimberly and her mom ride with him, though Kimberly has to ride up front and not in the back with her parents. They’re not sure if it was a heart attack, but until the tests can be done, they will treat it like one and send him to the ICU.
I … am not sure I should be recapping this book. I did not expect this, and my dad was just rushed from one hospital to a specialist hospital for emergency surgery. He lost his leg due to a life-threatening infection. He’s only allowed two visitors per day in the ICU, and today is not my day, so I’m writing this before I go back tomorrow. I’m the one gathering information and passing it out to people worried about him, talking to strangers, checking on his treatment every day. Ostrich handles stuff at his house, and my siblings are being great support, but I’m the one in charge of things for him, and it is a lot.
This book was certainly a choice.
Ah well, it’s Sweet Valley. Odds are good it’ll be barely touched on, the Unicorns will show up to support Kimberly and the Eights won’t, and she’ll not go anywhere. No need for an actual emotional response to this on my part.
Kimberly and her mom get some sleep in the ICU waiting room where chairs fold out into beds. This is true. My siblings and I spent quite a bit of time in the ICU waiting room; mom was there often. We couldn’t go farther away, not even to a nearby hotel, because what if we missed the end. What if she died and we weren’t there. Back then, we were able to go in two at a time, but we could all go the same day, not like the restrictions currently (I assume due to Covid). We ate there, slept there, some of them tried to teach me how to knit there, read there, cried there, laughed there — yeah, okay, seriously, this might not have been a good book for me to recap this weekend. [Dove: I’m very sorry. I only read the book today and had no idea about the contents.] [Raven: I echo this. Literally no clue. I’m so sorry.]
Kimberly wishes she had an older sister who could help take care of her mom, could help Kimberly herself be strong. She thinks of the Unicorns and how they help each other through things and is desperate to talk to someone. Wants to cry but can’t let herself. Wants to call the Eights, but has to wait until school is over.
She talks to Julie, who is freaked out and awkward at first, but then talks about how she, too, had the worst day, she completely failed the history test. Kimberly thinks that she’s trying to make her feel better by distracting her, but Kimberly actually wants to talk about him.
Julia even leaves her hanging so she can answer another call and, of course, doesn’t come back to ages because she’s been talking to Carmen. Julia then conferences the two of them together because Carmen wants to get a ride to Fun City from Kimberly because they’re kind of in the same neighborhood.
Kimberly is heartbroken that they care more about Fun City and the concert than they do her and her fears about her dad.
Saturday, they learn that her dad did have a heart attack, a mild one because it only caused slight damage, though neither Kimberly or her mother really believe a heart attack can be mild.
One of her mom’s friends comes to visit and talk to her, and Kimberly is jealous because she doesn’t have support from her friends. She decides that maybe the Eights tried to call her at the hospital or tried to visit but weren’t allowed up to the coronary care unit because they were too young. She checks downstairs but there are no messages for her.
Kimberly gets sadder and sadder and then, of course, the Unicorns show up. They didn’t hear about the heart attack until Bruce’s party and came straight to the hospital to check on her. They offer to stay, tell her that they’ll still be friends even though she’s now an Eight, and finally Kimberly, after fighting to be strong, finally starts crying and admits she wants them to stay.
Okay, look, I hate Kimberly, but fuck does this ring true, how hard it is to be strong, how hard it is to ask for help, how hard it is to allow people who love you to support you. I’m better at it these days, but it’s still hard and exhausting. [Dove: This was a nice moment. I may loathe Kimberly, but I appreciate her asking for the support she needs.] [Raven: Yep. Massively conflicted by this book.]
Ugh. I need to set something on fire. Too many real feelings.
The Unicorns give up the Johnny Buck concert for Kimberly, her dad is doing better though still in the hospital, and Kimberly finally admits to herself that she has fun hanging out with the Eights but she sees now that they’re not really her friends, they weren’t there when it actually mattered.
However, she also thinks that the Unicorns, while they supported her, are still immature, they hadn’t grown up during the past week but she has and their maturity levels are even farther apart now.
Back at school, Kimberly wants the Unicorns to ask her to sit with them, but when they don’t, she clings to the Eights. She learns that Johnny Buck had to cancel the concert because his voice gave out backstage (though he’s giving another concert next week to make up for it) [Dove: Wait, so does he have to make up the Las Vegas night too?]; all Kimberly can think about is that there was no concert but the Eights still did not come visit her.
Kimberly blows up at the Eights, the Eights don’t change at all, and Kimberly realises she blew up her friendships with the Unicorns for false friends in the Eights. Shocking.
The Unicorns come to check on her, they talk about how it’s hard for Kimberly to be an eight grader and how she struggles thinking about going on to high school without any of her friends. The Unicorns assure her she’ll make new friends when she gets to high school and, of course, she’ll still have them (which appears to be a lie based on last year’s eight grade members).
Kimberly decides that for now, at least, she’ll enjoy being a Unicorn.
Kimberly and her dad bond over a successful magic trick, Kimberly notices a song about true friendship on Johnny Buck’s latest CD and writes a letter to him tell him about her dearest friends, her dad comes home feeling better, Johnny Buck dedicates the friendship song to the Unicorns because of Kimberly’s letter, and Kimberly surprises them with backstage passes.
Book ends with a brief setup for how Ellen wishes she had a boyfriend and the forthcoming two-part Unicorns-at-sea miniseries.
Didn’t — didn’t we already have a Unicorns-at-sea two-part miniseries? [Dove: No, we had a SVMS-stranded-on-an-island two-part miniseries.]
Well, this book worked as a distraction from the situation for awhile, but then it went into dad, ICU, how hard it is to be strong and accept help, a trite ending with a lesson about friendship that will be rendered moot by the next book because the Unicorns have gone over and over and over learning how to be better friends and it never sticks, and a setup for a miniseries that feels like it might be a rehash.
It was a distraction. It was fine. Kimberly in the book was well enough, though coming into it already hating her means it doesn’t actually feel like Kimberly in this book at all.
A solid meh from me along with bad timing.
[Dove: This was a weird book. It gave Kimberly a bit more depth, but the thing is: I don’t want to like her. I thought she was an absolute monster when she first arrived. She made the Unicorns ashamed of volunteering at the child care centre (remember that?), she spitefully ignored the Team Boring members, she framed Mary for “tattling” on them when they snuck off campus for lunch, and then she stole Mary’s work without a hint of remorse, and even when she was caught, she still managed to get what she wanted: back into the Unicorns, while booting out those she hated, and cutting down on volunteering time. This girl is a fucking toxic harpy. And because of that, I’ve resented every single book that has ignored that thoroughly awful behaviour. I don’t care if Kimberly is lonely or sad or worried about high school. She’s a nasty cow, and humanising her just seems completely hollow. Objectively, the book was fine, mostly interesting and engaging, but when I read it as part of a series, I just want Kimberly to fuck off back to Atlanta.]
[Raven: Yup. What the others said.
I don’t want to care about Kimberly. She’s the active character that’s torpedoed this series from its fun beginnings. She took something I was enjoying, and ruined it. But I did feel a little sorry for her in this book, and it was fun having some interaction with the criminally underused Eights.
I just wish they’d made something more of the Eights and their treatment at the hands of the high-school boys. Or that the story had actually ended with some significant change (no more Kimberly, real war declared with the Eights, reunifying with the Angels to battle the Big Bad, or even a temporary return to the club for Tamara Chase). It all felt a little half cooked.
I did like Kimberly’s dad, though.]